Joint Parent-Child App Play Can Bolster Language Development SLPs can show parents how to harness apps to get their children talking at home. App-titude
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App-titude  |   April 01, 2017
Joint Parent-Child App Play Can Bolster Language Development
Author Notes
  • Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a clinician and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, Massachusetts, and is a consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com
    Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a clinician and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, Massachusetts, and is a consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com×
Article Information
Development / Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / App-titude
App-titude   |   April 01, 2017
Joint Parent-Child App Play Can Bolster Language Development
The ASHA Leader, April 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.22042017.np
The ASHA Leader, April 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.22042017.np
Parents are eager for tools—toys, books, games, activities and even technology—they can use to improve their child’s communication skills. Clinicians can use a number of resources to help focus this discussion and provide models to parents.
Some clarification
Technology use at home is something of a hot-button issue of late. Clinicians and parents are understandably concerned about excessive “screen time” and potential tech addiction among our teens. But many parents recognize their children’s interest in devices and would like tips on interacting with them around it—or are open to framing the discussion according to that model.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long been a strong voice in this issue, and recently emphasized the potential of “co-engagement” as opposed to unsupervised screen time. In this mode of technology use, parents and children engage around a game or app-based activity in the same way they would with a picture book or toy. The AAP Article “Beyond Turn It Off” provides a great resource for discussing these points.
Limits and balance of activities are, of course, still important points; the AAP provides a more comprehensive Media and Children Communication Toolkit including policy statements, videos and family media plans.
Modeling co-engagement
Parents will benefit from models of how to use apps with their children in interactive, language-eliciting ways, just as they do with toys, books and other materials. Identifying interactive and language-neutral apps that have a modifiable pace and limited sound effects and voiceover is a step that paves the way to scaffolding language within the context. Apps from Sago Mini, Dr. Panda and Toca Boca are good examples.
Clinicians can also explore and demonstrate the use of simple apps for co-creation with parents. Pic Collage provides a great way to visualize vocabulary around a theme. In Book Creator, users can create “talking” photo albums of family events and stories.
To supplement your modeling, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, affiliated with Sesame Workshop, provides Family Time with Apps, a free, detailed e-book on co-engagement with apps. In this resource, comics depict parent-child interactions around a variety of apps. Additionally, the e-book suggests specific apps and app-related activities and provides guidelines for integrating apps in educational and communication-enhancing ways.
App guides
A number of apps have been created specifically to facilitate communication at home. PBS Parents Play and Learn provides a free library of interactive activities designed for parent-child play and suggestions for scaffolding teachable moments at home and in a variety of community settings. The Fred Rogers Center has also created apps with parent-child interaction in mind; in the free Alien Assignment app, parents and children can respond to cute alien “requests” to take photos that fit in various categories.
Starting from these models, parents will likely find other apps with open-ended features that make them suitable to scaffold language and communication. Putting parents in touch with blogs such as Smart Apps for Kids and The iMums is another way to open these doors for them.
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April 2017
Volume 22, Issue 4